Belfast Telegraph

In cities and towns, they all remembered the fallen

By John Porter

Remembrance Sunday was marked across Northern Ireland at war memorials in cities, towns and villages, attended by civic dignitaries, ex-servicemen and women. Wreaths of remembrance poppies were laid on the cenotaphs and two minutes of silence were held at 11am. The events were coordinated by the Royal British Legion which also runs the poppy campaign.

Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon led the two-minute silence and hundreds gathered at the Cenotaph in the shadow of the City Hall to pay their respects to the fallen.

Ex-servicemen and women joined dignitaries including the First Minister Peter Robinson, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan.

At 11am those in attendance joined with others across the UK to observe the silence to remember those who died in the two World Wars and other conflicts, with poppy wreaths laid in tribute afterwards.

The Lord Mayor laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in Belfast. She joins the increasingly long list of nationalists to take part in the annual event.

In 2002, the then Sinn Fein Lord Mayor Alex Maskey was the first republican to lay a wreath at a service to remember those who died in the Battle of the Somme.

He led a Sinn Fein delegation to the Cenotaph and laid a laurel wreath in an early morning service ahead of the main remembrance event.

The republican, however, abstained from taking part in the main Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph.

Since that landmark event, some of his fellow party members have followed in his footsteps to lead the main service.

SDLP councillor Nichola Mallon, despite taking part in yesterday's service by laying a wreath, did not wear a poppy.

Ms Mallon could not be reached for comment.

However, a Belfast City Council spokesman said he could not comment on the personal decisions of individual members.

Ulster Unionist councillor Bob Stoker, who attended the event, said those who died in the two world wars and other conflicts fought for the freedom of others to decide how they showed their respects on Remembrance Sunday.

He said: "The poppy is an inclusive symbol, which is one of remembrance, it's not a matter of what religion you are or who won what, it's about remembering the sacrifice of the fallen.

"Many people from across Ireland took part in the campaign and I don't look at where they were from, just the sacrifice they made.

"All across the UK people are taking part in remembrance events in their own way and that's why so many fought and died.

"That's what democracy and freedom of choice are about."

He added: "This year's event went very well, it is always emotional, but there was a large crowd, a family of people, who have lost loved ones over the years in various conflicts.

"The centenary of the outbreak of the First World War gave this year's event an added emphasis.

"People, particularly younger people, are realising that remembrance services are more about honouring the dead, it is nothing to do with glorifying war."

Over recent years efforts have been made to include those from nationalist and republican communities in recognition of how the wars did not discriminate against people's backgrounds.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny attended the service in Enniskillen, and Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan took part in the Belfast service.

Mr Flanagan commented: "I was pleased to accept the invitation to participate at the ceremony at Belfast Cenotaph and to lay a wreath, on behalf of the Irish Government, to remember all those who died."

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